Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Not *that* kind of grass...or *that* kind, either

The Grass I want to talk about today is a science fiction/fantasy/horror novel by Sheri S. Tepper. "Grass" is both the name of the novel and the world on which most of the story is set: the only planet in human-inhabited space that hasn't been infected by a deadly plague. The novel's protagonist has been sent along with her ambassador husband to find out what makes Grass safe.

The thing is, Grass isn't safe, not at all. It seems perfectly pastoral on the surface, right down to the hunts on which members of the landed gentry chase "foxes" (actually native creatures that aren't very fox-like at all) with the aid of "hounds" and "horses" a thousand times more sinister than their Terran counterparts. In fact, you only have to read twenty pages or so before you start to wonder which species involved in the hunts is really in charge - and what it wants of the other species involved.

There's a lot of EMC in Grass - and do note that I said "EMC" and not just "MC." ;-) I'll give you just a taste of it here, a scene so brief it hardly requires any introduction at all: Dimity is a virginal young thing on her first-ever fox hunt. She's been training for months, though, because it's such a painful and exhausting experience...which, for some reason, no one ever thinks of refusing. Her father Stavenger is the captain of this particular hunt, and her brother Sylvan goes along even though he despises the practice. And that's all you need to know before we dig in:
     The Hunt does go on. Time passes. The fox runs for hours. The riders pursue it for hours. Dimity forgets who she is or where she is. There is no yesterday, nor any tomorrow. There is only an everlasting now, full of the pound of feet on the turf, the rustle of grasses as they push their way through, the scream of the fox far ahead, the bay of the hounds. Hours gone. Days, perhaps. Perhaps they have ridden for days. She would not know.
     There is nothing to mark the passage of time. Thirst, yes. Hunger, yes. Weariness, yes. Pain, yes. All of these have been there since early in the morning: burning thirst, gnawing hunger, aching bones, deep-set as a disease. Her mouth cannot be drier than it is, her stomach emptier. She cannot hurt more than she hurts. And now, at last, she gives up fighting against it. It will last forever. The thing in her head wipes out any concern about that. Nothing measures time. No before. No after. Nothing, nothing. Until the mount beneath her slows and stops and she unwillingly leaves the agonized daze she has fallen into and opens her eyes.
     They are standing at the edge of another copse, moving slowly into it, into a grove, into the dusky cathedral shade of the trees. High above them the foliage opens to allow the sun to pierce the gloom in radiant spears. One of them lights Stavenger where he stands upon his mount with the harpoon in his hands, ready to throw. From the tree branches above comes a scream of rage, then Stavenger's arm whips out and the line streaks behind the harpoon like a thread of purest gold.
     A horrible scream again, this time of agony.
     A hound leaps high to seize the line in his teeth. Other hounds as well. They have it. They are pulling the fox out of the tree, still howling, still screaming, never silent for an instant. Something huge and dark with glistening eyes and mighty fangs falls among them, and then there is only the sound of screaming mixed with the sound of teeth.
     Dimity closes her eyes again, too late not to see the dark blood fountaining among the struggling bodies, and feels...feels a welling of pleasure so deeply intimate it makes her flush and draw her breath in, makes her legs quiver where they bestride the body beneath her, makes her whole body rock in a spasm of ecstatic sensation.
     All around her other eyes are closed, other bodies quiver. Except for Sylvan. Sylvan sits erect, eyes fixed on the bloody tumult before him, teeth bared in a silent rage of defiance, his face quite blank. He can see Dimity from where he is, see her body thrashing, her eyes closed. In order not to see it, he turns his face away.
Again, that was just the merest glimpse of "Grassian" EMC. You have no idea how deep the control goes until nude, mindwiped girls start turning up in spaceports - and even that's not the end of it! Check it out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i had no idea sheri s. tepper rolled like that! shall have to investigate now!